Prof. Tom Battin receives European Geosciences Union award

Prof. Battin heads EPFL’s River Ecosystems Laboratory (RIVER) at Alpole in Sion. ©Alain Herzog, EPFL

Prof. Battin heads EPFL’s River Ecosystems Laboratory (RIVER) at Alpole in Sion. ©Alain Herzog, EPFL

EPFL Prof. Tom Battin has been awarded the 2023 Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky Medal for his pioneering research on biofilms in streams. The awards ceremony was held in Vienna on Wednesday, 26 April 2023.

The Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky Medal is a prestigious award handed out every year by the European Geosciences Union (EGU). The 2023 medal went to Prof. Battin for his fundamental contribution to the biosciences throughout his career, and especially for his groundbreaking work on the ecology, architecture and biogeochemistry of microbial biofilms in streams.

The EGU notes that Prof. Battin’s research has brought new tools to the interdisciplinary study of how living organisms interact with stream environments. His work has demonstrated the critical role that biofilms and microbial communities play in fluvial ecosystems and the importance of freshwater fluxes in the global carbon cycle. Prof. Battin has also inspired many early career scientists and opened new areas of investigation linking aquatic biogeochemistry and global biogeochemical cycles.

“This is the first time that this medal has been awarded to a freshwater biogeochemist, which I take as recognition for the river science community overall,” says Prof. Battin, who heads EPFL’s River Ecosystems Laboratory (RIVER) at the Alpine and Polar Environmental Research Centre (Alpole) in Sion. “That community is rapidly growing because of the awareness that streams and rivers matter for global biogeochemistry and human wellbeing.”

At EPFL, Prof. Battin is known for the biofilm research he’s conducting as part of the Vanishing Glaciers project, funded by the NOMIS Foundation. Vanishing Glaciers aims to unlock the secrets of the microbial life in the world’s glacier-fed streams, which host a microbiome that remains largely unknown to date — one that may disappear as glaciers melt.

Read our April 2020 article on the Vanishing Glaciers project